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FEBRUARY 3, 2004

KEVIN RIDOLFI

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Send Us Feedback: A Super Jinx Almost Bowls Over Pats

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DROPPED CLUTCH
[ 1, 2 ]

It was settled, I now definitively knew I was the unwilling puppeteer and poor Adam was my puppet. He was my own little football pawn I could direct involuntarily. So I vowed to never watch him kick another field goal, applying the logic that he would then never miss again and would obviously put together a stellar, Hall-of-Fame career.

That logic sucks. The damage was done. Vinatieri was jinxed for the season. At least until the playoffs came. He apparently found some way to break the jinx and came up huge once again with a game-winning field with four minutes left against the Titans. In the AFC Championship game against the Colts, he put on a kicking clinic by splitting the uprights five times. In five attempts. He never missed. I was so excited during that game -- barely able to focus -- that I somehow forgot about the jinx and I watched his last field goal attempt. He made it and the Pats won. Vinatieri was 6-for-7 in the playoffs as the Pats headed down to Houston for the Super Bowl.

Vinatieri kicks the game winner in Super Bowl XXXVIII
IT'S GOOD!!
Something the author will never see.
And...the jinx? Well, stupidly I figured it was gone since I had deliriously watched him actually make a field goal against the Colts. I bragged that I could finally watch the best kicker in the game kick his field goals without having to wait for replays to see them. In hind-sight and with a significant amount of Monday-morning quarterbacking: I am a jackass.

In Houston again -- Vinatieri's personal purgatory. A domed stadium. Clutch play-off performer. No more jinx. How could the Pats lose? Well, some aforementioned jackass, riddled with alcohol and jacked up on field-goal-watching-pride, watches Adam's first attempt of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

No score. Early first quarter. A chip shot. 36 yards. The Panthers even helped things out by taking a foolish delay of game penalty and moving it up 5 yards. A 31-yarder.

MISS.

Wide right. My mouth wide open.

His next field goal attempt? Mid second quarter; still no score. A 36-yarder. Like an idiot who smacks his head into a brick wall over and over and each time is surprised that his head hurts, I watched again.

BLOCKED.

Just like that the wall shattered along with my mental block.

That was it. I was losing the game for the Patriots. I sat in stunned silence as the Panthers went up 22-21 on a wing and a pray to Mushin Muhammad halfway through the fourth quarter. An 85-yard play usually only seen in games drawn up with sticks and bottle caps. The first time the Pats had been behind in a game since the Houston game in November.

Stupid city. Stupid stadium. Stupid jinx.

Vinatieri is known by many nicknames: Mr. Clutch. Mr. Reliable. Just not in tragically misnamed Reliant Stadium (how can Mr. Reliable break down in a stadium seemingly named for his own almost transcendent dependability?). To top it off, he may as well be kicking with his left foot when I have my eyes open and on the game.

Super Bowl champs
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Overcoming the resilient Panthers and an unprecidented jinx.
Thankfully, both Adam and I got one last chance to redeem ourselves in the waning seconds of the game. In a six minute flurry the Pats and the Panthers, quiet for so much of the first half, exploded for 15 points in a classic race for the final gun never before seen in Super Bowl history.

With the score locked tight at 29-29 and four seconds remaining, Vinatieri booted his second Super Bowl winning kick in the last three years and firmly entrenched himself in Boston lore. A fairy tale ending. 32-29. Patriots win again.

"Nobody makes all of them. But if you've got to have one kick with everything on the line, he's the one you want kicking it," New England coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. "It was an awesome kick. It was a great kick. That's the game. That's what Adam's here for."

And we all know why he hit it. The real reason.

I wasn't watching.

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PICTURES All © AP as displayed on superbowl.com; manipulated by Penalty Box Design. Reliant Stadium © houstontexans.com.